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Across the Pond: An Englishman's View of America Hardcover – June 24, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Eagleton has taught at top universities, authored 40-plus books, and feuded with, among others, Richard Dawkins and Martin Amis. He’s a Marxist and a Catholic (or at least was raised as one), and he traces his roots not to Manchester, where he grew up, but to Galway, from which his family migrated. So when Eagleton follows Tocqueville and Dickens in anatomizing the American attitudes and anomalies, he employs a complex collection of tools and perspectives. Across the Pond explores the language the U.S., the UK, and Ireland (where the author now lives) share but use quite differently. It ponders these nations’ utterly distinct notions of the relationships between body and mind, mind and will, and will and reality, and their relative fondness for comedy and tragedy, satire and “the gag.” Henry James figures here, but so do Thomas Aquinas and Milan Kundera. Eagleton sees much to admire in the U.S.—plus contradictions, hypocrisies, and refusals to face reality that deserve scorn. He closes with “Modest Proposals” that urge Americans to learn, among other things, “how to mock themselves” and “how to use a teapot.” --Mary Carroll


“Incisive and honest… Eagleton’s contribution to the persistent subgenre of Toquevillian analysis: the European curmudgeon’s critical, ultimately appreciative and, in Eagleton’s case, loving guide to the wacky Yanks and their nation.” (Michael Washburn - Boston Globe)

“[Eagleton is] clearly a writer who enjoys being a provocateur: there’s something to argue with on pretty much every page of Across the Pond, and usually something downright hilarious, too. Great stuff…Terry Eagleton is a funny man.” (Geoff Nicholson - Los Angeles Review of Books)

“Terry Eagleton has a gift for the kind of generalizations that at first appear outrageous but seem, on reflection, annoyingly perceptive. Were I one of the expressive Americans he describes, I’d call this book awesome; as a constipated Brit, I’m inclined to say that it is not at all bad.” (Henry Hitchings, author, The Secret Life of Words)

“His mode is that of a jocular anthropologist, pint in hand, chattily offering up his opinions.” (David Wolf - The New Republic)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (June 24, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393088987
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393088984
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #849,404 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Terry Eagleton is John Edward Taylor Professor of English Literature at the University of Manchester. His numerous books include The Meaning of Life, How to Read a Poem, and After Theory.

Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

53 of 66 people found the following review helpful By Black Swan on May 26, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am British and have lived in the US for ten years, so you would think the content of this book would be resonant with my own experiences. The perspective offered is quirky, anecdotal, amateurish and generalizes the highly personal observations and opinions of the author in a rather grating way. Both his description of typical British and American attitudes and behavior seemed off the mark much of the time. He is very anchored in his own generation and the specific places in each very diverse country he has been to. His humor is not really very funny, despite his trying very hard. There is also an undercurrent of superiority and mean-ness that is off-putting. He claims, for instance, that Americans use the word kids too much instead of children. First of all, who cares? Secondly in Glasgow, where I grew up, the childrens' hospital was referred to as the "Sick Kids", whereas my childrens' pre-school in the US always uses the word children in published materials, classroom reports and parent-teacher meetings. Reading between the lines I would guess he was only in the US for a few years at the most, didn't really fit in or enjoy it and his motivation in writing the book was to press home the point "you're not as great as you think" to Americans. Well, my guess is most of them don't care. This may find a readership with Brits and Irish who aren't that high on America, but even they will probably find it dreary and pedantic.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By DJ Jonathan E. on December 4, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Just because a work is not entirely worthless does not mean that it is not far from worthy. Eagleton makes the occasional good point, a nugget amidst the dross. However, most of the time he rather earnestly and onanistically explores his own navel, revealing more about his prejudices than the supposed subject. Much of the book is a tiresome slog through what can only be described as an intellectualist hall of mirrors, confusing and ultimately pointless.

Stereotypes and generalizations are a poor man's way of looking at the world, and despite a slightly amusing anecdote here and there, Eagleton never manages to get beyond a rather familiar and trite view of Americans. If there's an obvious target, Eagleton shoots at it regardless of whether it's been hit before or is worth hitting in the first place. As an Englishman living in the US for over forty years, I felt that Eagleton has simply not observed the wide variety of humanity, let alone the landscapes and cities, to be found in this country. Eagleton rightly takes aim at American foreign policy, but one doubts that any Americans will take note after his generally dismissive, even abusive, comments and insults towards them. He is a master of the old English skill of delivering sugar-coated venom.

There is a tradition in the world of drama of describing an appallingly awful performance as "extraordinary." This is an extraordinary book. Extraordinary that it found a publisher and extraordinary that the author found it peculiar that some publishers turned him down. He is too clever by half and quite overly full of himself.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By M. R. Jones on May 11, 2014
Format: Hardcover
I am not often moved to write a review on Amazon, but I feel I just had to after finishing this book just seconds ago.

My background: I was born, raised and educated in Wales (part of the UK). My dad's Welsh, my mum German. I studied at Manchester University for 3 years and lived and worked in London for 4. I've never been to the US, but I have plenty of US friends and have read many US books (fact and fiction) and newspapers and journals.

Well, it's no wonder that I never got on with the English if this is their attitude to life.

Terry Eagleton was already familiar to me from his book on literary theory (I did an MA in English Literature). That was pretty much full of tripe, too.

I'd say about 1/3 of this book is accurate. The rest is just vile fantasy.

And some of his comments just take the biscuit. Comparing Hamlet's dying words to Steve Jobs's. Well, does he not realise that the former is a fictional character and his words have been written for him?

Then the comment about how the Americans believe that will power is all that is needed to achieve something and that if someone wants to fly to Rio and there is no airport nearby then if they believe enough and they will grow wings... How facetious. Where there's a will there's a way means that you find a way to achieve what you want. Like catching a bus or a train to the nearest airport. Not just willing yourself to grow wings.

The comment about how only in America will you find really long freight trains. My dear.. come to Germany, where I now live, and see the length of the trains here. Just because the UK doesn't believe in the rail for freight doesn't mean to say that the rest of the world doesn't either.

And as for flag waving.. have you seen the Danes?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Patrick Prendergast on August 21, 2014
Format: Paperback
Started off OK, but soon became very tedious. By the end of the book, Mr. Eagleton was in full-blown navel-gazing mode. I forced myself to finish it. For that I should be given a refund. I am sure that will not happen. Isn't that a bit ironic since Mr.Eagleton disdains capitalism? I am sure he never voted for Margaret Thatcher either :-) . I have deposited the book in the circular file. There's no sense asking another person to endure what I endured.
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